Beta carotene: What is it and why is it in energy drinks?

In our constant effort to get more done in less time, many of us turn to energy drinks to stay alert longer and increase productivity. But do you really know what’s in these little cans of awesomeness? You may have noticed that many of them contain beta carotene but you’ve never wondered why.

You have to ask the right questions if you want the most helpful answers. For example, if you want to know how effective energy drinks really are, you might need to ask why they include beta carotene in the list of ingredients.

What is it's purpose in energy drinks?

Looking at the ingredients of most energy drinks can be overwhelming. Some are items you can’t even recognize or pronounce, like glucuronolactone. One that may be familiar is beta carotene.

Since it is an antioxidant, it helps to keep you healthy. Antioxidants help your body recover from activity and exercise. Preventing illness and cell damage will allow you to maintain top form and give you energy. Although there are no hard and fast rules regarding recommended dosage, many health experts suggest getting 6-20 milligrams of beta carotene daily for maximum effectiveness.

Vitamin A and beta carotene are stored in the liver. The body only uses beta carotene when needed. A healthy liver can make you feel less sluggish and more energized.

Another reason it may be used in energy drinks is because it’s a natural pigment. As a natural compound, energy drink manufacturers can include it to enhance the color appeal of their product while still keeping the drink healthy and organic. With beta carotene, you get the color boosting properties in addition to the numerous advantages of vitamin A, making it a win-win.

It can also help to boost your immune system. This means that your body can do a better job of fending off illness and colds. And what could be more energy-inducing than that?

What exactly is beta carotene?

It is one of nature’s most vital compounds. It also belongs of a group of phytochemicals called carotenoids which one usually finds in plants.

The main claim to fame lies in its ability to convert into vitamin A. This makes it a precursor of vitamin A. You can get more than 50 percent of the vitamin A you need from beta carotene and other carotenoids.

Vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin and eyes, to boost your immune system and to protect your cells from harmful free radicals. While beta carotene itself is not a key nutrient, vitamin A is. After you eat it, beta carotene converts to retinol, a highly usable form of vitamin A.

Additionally, since vitamin A can be toxic at high levels, beta carotene is beneficial because your body can store it in your liver and use it only as necessary. An overdose of vitamin A is not common and is typically the result of taking too many supplements.

If you consistently consume slightly more than the recommended amount, beta carotene is not seriously harmful.  Although you could experience an orange tint in your skin color. However, overdosing on vitamin A overtime can cause it to build up in your body. Which may lead to liver damage. It can also cause vomiting, muscle weakness, or lead to osteoporosis. While too much beta carotene can be harmful for people who smoke.

Beta carotene is responsible for giving a bright orange or yellow color to many fruits and vegetables. This includes oranges, carrots, grapefruit, apricots, peppers, sweet potatoes and squash. For this reason, we also use it as a natural food coloring for products like margarine, which would otherwise be white.

Like all carotenoids, beta carotene is an antioxidant. This means that it protects your cells from damage by oxidation. Free radicals and other toxins can damage cells, causing a variety of cancers and chronic illnesses.

History and research 

Its name comes from Greek (beta) and Latin (carota or carrot). First isolated in 1831 by H. Wachenroder, the chemical formula, C40 H56 was established in 1907. The chemical company Roche began producing it commercially in 1954.  And after many years of careful study, its usefulness as an antioxidant and in preventing cancer was determined in the 1908s. Since then, research has verified its effectiveness in avoiding or treating a number of diseases, including arthritis and cystic fibrosis.

Some research suggests that beta carotene could decelerate mental deterioration and help older adults increase lung strength. Experts have also found that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables with beta carotene have a lower risk of developing certain cancers and heart disease. Studies show that it has an effect on the likelihood of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

It has also been studied to discover the benefits for those with exercise-induced asthma, cataracts, and epilepsy, in addition to heartburn, infertility, arthritis and skin disorders like psoriasis.

Little-known facts

  • Flamingoes have their characteristic red-orange glow due to a diet high in beta carotene.
  • Some prescription drugs, such as those for weight loss and cholesterol, can lower the amount or absorption effectiveness of beta carotene.
  • It can help you see better in the dark, since vitamin A prevents a degenerative eye disease called xerophthalmia, which causes night blindness.
  • You should consume supplements with meals containing at least three grams of fat to help with absorption, since beta carotene is fat-soluble.
  • The deeper the orange color of a carrot, the more beta carotene you will get from it.
  • It is the most active of all carotenoids.
  • You get more beta carotene from carrot juice than you do from eating an actual carrot.
  • Although there are over 50 different types of carotenoids, beta carotene is used in supplements more than any other and is considered to be the most important.